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“R” you in love with Warm Bodies? A book and movie review

8 Feb

“I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it.”

And I was hooked. This is the first line of Isaac Marion’s novel, Warm Bodies, and right away I felt that I had connected with his main character–who just so happens to be a mildly clear-thinking, witty, brain-eating zombie. If I had to sum up this story: it’s a romance–with zombies. Marion’s novel stuck with me as he narrates a story above life, love and survival from the eyes of someone who is already dead. (well…sort of. )

The lead character, who goes by only the letter R as he has forgotten the rest of his name, is a zombie. He explains right away that the living dead can’t remember their names, their past lives or what it was like to be alive anymore–they only keep going, unable to communicate, trapped within rotting bodies.

This brilliant novel struck a chord with me–and it is obvious from the movie that it struck the filmmakers in the same way–in regard to the lack of human interaction and communication in the present. R poses questions to himself and to the reader as he faces his inner self in various conflicts–like eating people, for example. Although R knows that he has to eat people to survive, he doesn’t like to hurt people. He has inner conflict about it. I suppose that is partly why he was susceptible in the first place to falling for one of the living.

After eating the brain of a boy named, Perry, R finds himself hopelessly enamored with a girl named, Julie. The only problem is that she is alive. Torn between his nature and his newly discovered feelings, R seeks to protect the terrified Julie, and after camouflaging her scent in his dead blood so the other zombies won’t smell her, he takes her back to his home in the airport. Julie is understandably terrified at first, but soon R shows that he is becoming something bigger than he once once. Speech begins to return to him in blurbs at first, hunger for flesh and brains ebbs and his attachment to Julie grows.

I have always been a fan of the unusual point of view narrations–but so far, Warm Bodies takes the cake as one of my favorites. R’s narrative is an exciting combination of poetry, philosophy and gore. I quickly grew attached to the lead character and found myself rooting for him as he fights to change and as Julie rallies with him to find a “cure” to the zombie “plague”. All the while they each face their own version of zombies, both actual and physical as the actual humans within the story begin losing what made them such and emotionally slowly decays.

The film Warm Bodies, does a pretty fair job of picking up on R’s sense of humor–though I would have liked if it retained more of his inner narrative than was given. However, it was impressive how much emotion I felt came across from the actor who played R, Nicholas Holt,despite his lack of much facial expression or vocal cues.

Perhaps it was because I read the book that I felt that the actress who played Julie, Teresa Palmer, seemed to show less emotion than Holt, who was the actual zombie. She didn’t seem nearly as charismatic or lively as she is depicted in the novel: however, the film’s version of Julie has a grittier, older feel–and for a moment or two it feels like the movie version of The Hunger Games. (Which perhaps was the point?)

What I applaud the film most for is the horrific visual of the Boneys, skeleton-like zombies who within the novel are the leaders of the Zombie “hives”. They were truly grotesque in movements and presentations. They even made me jump.

Though, I wish that the film has stuck with the ending given to Julie’s father, General Grigio. It better reflected the comparison between current humanity and zombies, and though grim, I felt was more suitable. But alas, Hollywood loves their happy endings!

I rate the novel a 7 out of 10 on the restless writer scale, and the movie a four out of five cupcakes.

All and all, both the film and novel are worthwhile time-passers for this winter. And for those who love romance and also zombies–these are to die for. (Or perhaps to live!)

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Les Miserables will make you miserable! (But in a feel-good kind of way)

15 Jan

I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot of Les Miserables, but I understood what the title meant: “The Miserables.” So, one thing was certain; I wasn’t signing myself up for a family comedy.

Even so, I was convinced that I had to see it. After all, it’s a musical, and I haven’t yet met a musical that I haven’t liked.And I had always wanted to see the play. So, as the lights dimmed and the music drummed up, along with a surge of sea-sounds and booming baritone voices, I felt a thrilled chill dance along my vertebrae.That chill was only the start of what felt like an enveloping experience at the movie theaters.

If one has never seen Les Miserables, it is a mildly difficult thing to try to explain in mere words the emotional force that the music seems to contain. (But I will do what I can!) Les Miserables is a musical emotional force. It starts and ends with a heavy orchestral hand that leaves you slightly a-gape. Les Miserables is more like an opera than a musical, as there is little to no spoken dialogue and nearly all of the major plot is in song, which could have been a huge drawback if the singing wasn’t generally well done. (With an exception of Russell Crowe, who plays the chaotic good cop, Javert, who comes to an end that I believe should come to all poor singers.)

Each scene is loaded with a raw humanity: a prisoner who has hardened his heart, a priest who opens it again, a mother who does anything she can to support her child alone, a child abandoned and found again, a man rebuilt, learning to love, be loved and let go, a young man finding his place in the world and learning loss. Saying that this movie is heavy, hardly covers the plunge into problems that Les Miserables rockets its audience through. This film is not for the faint of heart. (I recommend stocking up on extra napkins at the concession stand if you don’t have tissues on hand.)

Les Miseables opens with the main character, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), working as a slave in a shipyard. The prisoners are waist deep in seawater as they struggle to bring a wounded ship to port. Manacled at the neck and hands, they sing a powerful baritone rendition of, “Look down”. Here the audience is also introduced to the main villain, Jevert (Russell Crowe) who seems to particularly loves to break Valjean. Valjean, having filled his prison sentence, is handed his papers to be free, but they mark his as a “dangerous man”. Once free of the prison, Valjean is still treated like a criminal and finds himself unable to find a job or shelter. Instead, he finds himself sleeping on a doorstep. Luckily, a kindly priest discovers him there and takes him in for the night. Desparate, Valjean steals away the Church’s silver in the night and runs off before they wake–but is immediately caught and brought back before the priest by the police. But the priest proclaims Valjean innocent and the police are forced to let him free. Valjean then makes a point to turn his life around and the movie follows his story.

There are of course multiple branches, time frames and points of views throughout the film. The character Fontaine (Ann Hathaway) is introduced next as a factory worker who is separate to support her child, and ends up selling her teeth, her hair and her body to male strangers. Her story is a tragic one, but her daughter Cosette(Amanda Seyfried) is more fortunate as Valjean takes her in as his own daughter and raises her under his new alias.

Yet, Javert soon discovers him and realizes that he is the former thief who skipped parole and seeks to recapture him. The story leads the audience through the brutal French revolution, introducing yet another character, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who falls for the lovely Cosette.

Though the story is full of absolute misery, death, and despair–it has such a powerful beauty that though you might be a little boogery by the end you feel a sense of revitalization. Small flecks of humor lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and the tiny glimmers of love throughout the otherwise dark film seem large and luminous in comparison.

All and all, I would see this film again and found myself humming “I dream a dream” all the way out of the theater. Les Miserables brings humanity back to film and I give it four cupcakes out of five.

Les Miserables

Disney Doesn’t “Wreck-it” with Wreck-It Ralph

10 Nov

After the more recent disappointments of The Borrower Arrietty and Brave, I was somewhat wary to see Disney’s most recent animated film, Wreck-it Ralph.

The advertisements looked promising, giving me a small hope that this would be the film that once more redeemed Disney’s animated films in my eyes, but I reminded myself that the ads for Brave and Arrietty had looked gorgeous too. So when my boyfriend and I finally made it down to the theater this week, I held my breath as the lights dimmed.

To my great relief, Disney had pulled it off. (Possible Spoiler alert!)

Wreck-it Ralph opens with a pixilated Steam-boat Willie, and then the lead character, Ralph begins to narrate over a close up of what appears to be an old arcade game, complete with 8-bit music, where we see Ralph living his day-to-day.

Ralph is the bad guy–but as all the ads point out (and  out of Street Fighter Zangeef’s mouth)–he isn’t a bad guy. It’s easy to feel badly for Ralph, a character who is programmed to be the villain of his game, wrecking an apartment for the hero, Felix, to fix; however, even after the arcade closes and the characters are allowed to be themselves, Ralph is still rejected by his fellow game characters and lives a lonely life in the dump.

The story takes place on the 30th anniversary of Wreck-it Ralph’s game, Fix-it Felix JR, with Ralph attending what appears to be an Alcoholic’s Anonymous style meeting of game villains where he admits that he wishes he knew what it felt like to be the hero. Here Disney playfully injects bad guys from games as familiar as Bowser from Super Mario, Zangeef from Street Fighter, A Pac man Ghost, and Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog along with characters the younger generation may recognize. (I couldn’t figure them out myself.) Ralph also admits that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more–but the group of baddies laugh it off and encourage him to take it, “one game at a time.” and not to “go turbo”.

After returning from his meeting, Ralph realizes that the other characters in his game are celebrating their 30 year anniversary with a party and, a little hurt his invitation never arrived, promptly makes an appearance there. The hero in his game, Felix, is a sweet and utterly loveable little man with a magic hammer is urged by his fellow characters to “get rid” of Ralph. Too nice to tell Ralph to hit the bricks, Felix invites Ralph in for cake instead, where Ralph is egged on by some of the other characters and ultimately he ruins the party. Ralph insists to the disbelieving group that he could earn metals just as easily as the hero, Felix, and is challenged by another character that if he gets a metal he live with them in the apartment instead of in the dump.

Urged on by the idea of living with the other game characters, Ralph embarks on a journey to obtain his own hero metal.

The audience travels with Ralph on his journey to be a hero and to be treated fairly through various games as Ralph “game jumps” to a very Halo-esq game called, Hero’s Duty, a one person shooter where he is faced with massive Bug-monsters that become whatever they eat. With absolutely no finesse, Ralph manages to steal a metal, but in doing so, also launches himself (literally) into another game as he struggles with a Bug that has clung to him in a stolen escape pod. They crash land in a game called, Sugar Rush, which is sort of like a candy-land racing game, where the Bug sinks and disappears in frosting. Here Ralph encounters a little girl called, Vanelope Schweet, who promptly steals his hero metal, thinking it’s a coin.

It turns out that Vanelope is in her own string of trouble,  and like Ralph, facing  isolation from her fellow game characters. The other characters claim Vanelope is a glitch that can’t be allowed to race with the other characters (or compete in the reindeer games!) and feeling badly for the girl, Ralph promises to help her.

Meanwhile, In Ralph’s game, the Arcade is open for business again and Ralph is a no show. Gamers who play notice the missing villain and bring it to the manager’s attention thinking the game is broken. Felix and the other characters finally realize that Ralph is missing and Felix promises to “fix-it” and sets off to find Ralph before the plug on their game is pulled. Felix and the female captain from Hero’s Duty team up, Felix searching for Ralph and the captain seeking out the Bug that escaped her game with Ralph.

Wreck-it Ralph is a movie about not making judgements–but even the villain of this film may surprise you. I think it may have been a first for me since I was young that I didn’t immediately know who the villain was and I loved the surprise. (I won’t spoil it for you.) The film is full of jokes that all ages can enjoy between the obvious “duty” jokes to the more adult themed (over the kids heads) jokes, this film is one I would consider seeing in theaters again.  Disney managed to pull it out of the bag for me on this one. The graphics are smooth and gorgeous and even the music is helplessly catchy. It gets a five our of five cupcakes from the Restless Writer scale.

 

Brave movie review and JulNoWriMo

2 Jul

So, I know I had mentioned wanted to review Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter the movie–but I haven’t gotten around to see it yet. Instead, my boyfriend was patient enough to sit through Pixar’s latest movie, Brave, with me.

Mainly, I think he was attracted to the fact that it was a Pixar film, because generally, they do not disappoint: but in this case I probably should have waited for it to come out on dvd.

Brave focuses on the Highland princess, Merida, and her thirst for the freedom to be who she is. Little does she know it, but her mother the queen is grooming her for her betrothal to one of the three clans eldest boys who then show up to try and “win” her hand with an archery tournament. Merida, determined to change her mother’s mind, seeks out a witch in the forest who gives her “a spell to change her fate” and “change her mother.” so she doesn’t want to force Merida to marry anymore. However, this crazy witch’s spell backfires, and literally changes her mother into a Bear.

Now, when I saw the trailers for this movie–I had no idea this was the direction this movie would take. And I’m rather disappointed. Though I loved the movie, and it’s message of mother-daughter bond rekindled, I was upset by how generally not creative this concept all was. I mean, all I could think of was another Disney movie called, Brother Bear. Made in 2003, Brother bear focused on the Native American folklore of “Spirit Animals” and involved a boy who kills a mother bear in vengence of his bother, who is then himself transformed into a bear in order to care for the slain mother bear’s son, Koda. The boys bond in bear form, much in the way that Merida bonds with her mother while her mother is in the form of a large black bear.

Overall, the film Brave is  beautifully animated, the details especially on the animals are amazing–but the plot itself leaves something to be desired.

To address that odd title of JulNoWriMo, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this: it stands for July Novel Writing Month, and I will be participating. The goal: 50.000 words by month’s end. I will be using the plot for the novel I’ve been planning. I’m rather excited, but also already tired. Wish me luck–and sorry if due to the novel I do not post as much here.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith A Novel Review

11 Jun

Four score and a few months ago, while awaiting the showing of The Hunger Games–I discovered what film I wanted next to see. While my girlfriends gawked excitedly at the preview for Titanic in 3D (and I grimaced, recognizing my old foe that caused my still deeply ingrained fear of sailing…) I found myself instead in awe of the trailer that followed it: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I felt my nerdiness rise to the surface to gasp asthmatically. No, that, was a movie worth seeing. Something old–made new. Not just with 3D slapped into it! An entirely unique concept.

It was later to my great joy that I was told that this movie that looked both absurd and would feed my inner nerd, was also a book. So that’s when I found myself tumbling toward the book store, eager to get my hands on a copy. It did not disappoint.

Created by the author who is known for, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this dark fact-ion kept my pouring through the pages. I couldn’t put it down. Which was a pleasant surprise.

When I started reading the novel, I at first worried that it would be too factual to be interesting–but I was so wrong. This novel’s beauty lies in its well-researched narration of the life of one of our nation’s most infamous presidents, Abe Lincoln. What feels like common knowledge about this man: that he started off in a poor family, that his life was riddled with loss and passion, and that he stood as a symbol of freedom for all men regardless of color is painted in a close, very personal way that makes (a usually dull subject for me) history interesting.Where do the vampires come in–you ask? Well, where it makes sense of course.

Abe and our readers are introduced to the concept of those blood-sucking demons, vampires, from the very beginning. As history tells, a strange unidentified illness takes Abe’s mother from him when he is very young. Grahame-Smith is clever enough to take advantage of the plot holes that history has left him, and plugged in the only “logical” answer–vampires. A vampire gives Abe’s mother a “fool’s dose” of vampire blood, killing her painfully as vengeance for his father’s unpaid debt. Abe never seems able to forgive his father for this. Nor vampires of course. And thus begins our story.

The reader is guided through Abe’s difficult life in a very factual way, making some of the fiction difficult to separate from the fact. (Sometimes it’s not–and it’s just plain hilarious.) We encounter Abe’s view of Slavery throughout his life (and mind you, he is never fond of it.) But upon discovering that the slave trade is literally feeding the vampire population, Abe’s resolve to end slavery (and by extension vampires) is solidified.

I absolutely recommend picking this up if you like fact-ion. (And non sparkly-vampires.)

Look forward to seeing my review of the movie which premiers June 22nd!

“I must endure. I must be more than I am. I must not fail. I must not fail her.”

Holy Hunger Games, Batman! A Book VS Movie Review

24 Mar

May the odds be ever in your favor.

This phrase should be a familiar one to any of you out there who had the pleasure of reading Suzanne Collin’s book, The Hunger Games. And even more familiar to you non-readers out there who have been recently bombarded with advertisements for the new film based on the novel.  However, the odds will definitely not be in your favor, if you see this movie before first familiarizing yourself with the novel.

Though the movie got nothing but whining and mainly unpleasant reviews yesterday morning–my friends and I had our minds set on going. But once in the theater, lights dim and room packed with eager faces, I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about. Then–the camera had a seizure. The opening scene introduces Katniss Everdeen’s home in District 12. The problem was–that apparently the camera man was brand new, and had never heard of a Tripod. The opening scene, which should have been fairly calm, just setting the scene, was so jumpy and chopped-looking that I felt momentarily cross-eyed.

However, after a few moments, the overly bouncing camera style improved slightly, and presented to the audience a very, Schindler’s List, feeling moment: The Reaping. Filmed in a toned done color scheme, and with terrified children lined up according to age and height all in drab, almost unformed “best clothes”–I could only compare their small, frightened faces to images from Nazi Detention Camps. I loved this parallel. A lone oppressive government, crushing the spirit of it’s”underdogs” as Snow calls them later in the film, is very much reminiscent of the Nazi Regime.

Fast forward to the main event–the blood, tears and gore of the event known as, The Hunger Games. What is the Hunger Games you may ask? A brutal, fight to the death between 24 children. If that’s not enough to make you ask–WHAT?–then you have no feelings. Our journey continues to follow Katniss, who volunteered to save her little sister, Primrose from having to fight, as she tries to impress the public of Panam. Why? Because this sick and twisted “game” has Sponsors of course. Not only do these children have to worry about the other “tributes”, but also, how to survive a harsh and contrived wilderness environment and how to impress “Sponsors” that will pay to send them parachuted gifts in the wilderness that could ultimately save their life.

How does Katniss survive? By playing up the Romance card with fellow district 12 Tribute, Peeta Meelak of course. Now, here is around the time where things will get hazy for all of you non-readers out there. As the movie has a time limit, you are not given the amount of information needed to establish how emotionally torn and how difficult this whole thing is for our leading lady, Katniss. The relationship instead, feels flat and more inauthentic than I believe it should have felt. Any non-reader could have easily brushed aside most of the moments that should have been establishing relationships in this film, including the relationship between Gale and Katniss, which is shown in small reaction shots. As someone who read the books over a year ago, I laughed a little at these shots, because I knew how awful the whole thing was. Non-readers may not have understood why this was happening and found it generally funny due to awkwardness. In fact, the whole segment of the movie while Katniss tries to survive the games would feel confusing and almost in genuine or over-the-top if I hadn’t read the novel. The movie lacks the proper introduction or analysis of characters that you get in the novel, so the kids chasing each other around feels more like Lord of the Flies, than really intimidating.(Though still very much unnerving)

The finale is also a real miss-out for anyone who hadn’t read the book. Mutts or mutants, are never really explained, so the giant man-eating dog-creatures that chase Katniss and Peeta, and eat a few other players, are just not as impressive in the film. In the novel, it is brought to light that these creatures resemble fallen Tributes as if they were made from parts of them. Both grim and terrifying in the novel, these dog-creatures fall short in the film when they are supposed to be a strong finale.

All and all, I liked the movie. It wasn’t nearly as poorly done as all the critics seemed to imply, as long as you can get past the bad camera-angles. It helps too, I think, that I had read the novels. For once, I felt that this movie was geared toward the avid-reader, putting those out of the loop, out of favor.

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

1 Mar

So, in spite of being somewhat stifled and inspiration-less on my trip to Marco Island–I did manage to get a fair amount of reading done. I had brought with me the third and final book in the Wicked Series–but never got around to finishing it. Instead, as I wandered the island with my younger sister one day, we came upon a bookstore called Sunshine Booksellers. Of course, I had to wander in to my sister’s great displeasure.

As I poked through some of the clearance fiction racks, and meandered meaninglessly through the locally made birthday cards–I spotted it. A bright yellow paperback, brand new and perched on the Best Seller’s rack as if it were awaiting my arrival. Eagerly, I made my purchase and spent the next three days pouring over Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help.

Now, I had already previously seen the movie. (And yes, I know. That goes entirely against the unwritten rules of books versus movies.) I hadn’t even realized (shamefully enough) that The Help was a novel until after the credits on the movie were rolling, and I was sniffling my way through a box of tissues.

Now, with the time and the means to read The Help, I buried myself in the folds of it’s new book smell and continue to be glad I did so. If I took nothing else away from this powerfully written read it’s this: Be true to what you feel is right, no matter the consequences.

The Help focuses on three main characters: Skeeter, Minny and the leading lady Aibileen. What I found most wonderful about this novel and the way in which it was written, was how distinct each voice is from one another. Though Stockett gives you the courtesy of labeling each section with who will be your guiding voice–she really didn’t have to. Aibileen has a distinctly written narration, reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn. Her narration is written  primarily phonetically, but not over done to the point of being offensive to the eye. Skeeter is written in a very standard sort of style, that is easy to follow, and easy to relate to. And Minny seems a wonderful combination of both, reflecting her straight-to-the point personality. I had little to no difficulty following each narrative as they smoothly transitioned from voice to voice and moment to moment.

The story draws the reader into the times of segregation in Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen and Minny are both black maids working for white families, while Skeeter is a young white woman trying to land herself in a writing career. Skeeter had been raised by a black maid for much of her life, by a woman very similar in station to Aibileen and Minny. As if by fate, Skeeter is drawn to Aibileen for help with a cleaning article she manages to become hired for, for the local newspaper. However, this soon blossems into a much more dangerous friendship when Skeeter begins to ask questions not proper for the time. Such as, “Do you like being a maid?” Or” How do you feel about having your own bathroom?” and hoping for a serious answer.

With the help of Aibileen, Minny and later many other black maids, Skeeter begins crafting the most scandalous novel of her time. But, what they’re doing could get them fired–or worse, killed. You are lead very different paths with these three narrators and can experience multiple sides in this hard-to-put-down novel.

Aibileen’s story, I found, was especially heart-breaking. Living alone, she cares for white babies until they are no longer “color-blind.” Moving from job to job. Her own child suffered a terrible fate, and she constantly mourns him. We follow her in raising a little white girl called, Mae Mobley or Baby Girl. The bond between the two was enough to make me tear up on more than a few occasions, as you the reader watch her raise the little girl to try to be confident in herself in an otherwise cold-hearted household.

Minny’s story is full of children, but not white children. She has a considerable amount of her own, as well as an abusive husband. Minny is not compliant and soft-mannered as Aibileen, but outspoken and fiery. Her sarcastic narration was the source of many a laugh while reading this novel. She brings the light into the story, keeping it moving when the situation gets too heavy. Even when facing a terrible situation, such as her new boss suffering from an abortion while she is working, her narration proved somewhat humorous and always human.

Skeeter’s story is one of discovery. A college graduate; she dreams of becoming a writer. While the rest of her friends are already married and having children, Skeeter is working for the local magazine. Her mother, who is gravely ill, is constantly putting pressure on her to find a husband as is “proper” for a woman at the time. Skeeter begins the journey to discover who her parents really are as seen from others eyes,how the rest of the town sees her, what romance is and what it means to love and lose, and most importantly, what the relationship between The Help and their bosses are like.

I devoured this book is three days, and would find myself reading long into the night until my eyes stung. This novel was skillfully written, beautifully narrated and well-researched. I was on the edge of my seat, worried for these women while they worked on a novel that would reveal the horrors and beauty of the relationships between the Help and their bosses.The best and the worst. What was most moving to me, was that in spite of all the odds these women faced–they did not back down. A lesson, I think, anyone could take from.

Thank goodness for reading